Lincoln 1860

Lincoln 1860

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Using Lincoln To Help Inspire The Nation

Barack Obama has been elected to serve as the nation's 44th president. His unlikely journey to the highest elected office in the country began, of course, in Springfield, Illinois on the steps of the Old State Capitol where Abraham Lincoln once served in the state legislature.

Many people have pointed out the similarities between Lincoln and Obama, including some who have gone so far as to call Obama "Lincoln-esque." That's an exaggeration at this point, because we can't know just what kind of leader Obama will be.

I watched Obama's acceptance speech last night along with millions of others across the country and around the world. As always, Obama's speech was eloquent and, at times, even moving. I was particularly struck by his paraphrases of Abraham Lincoln's words and his use of Lincoln's example to inspire the nation.

When discussing the beginnings of his campaign, Obama admitted his wasn't the likeliest to succeed, thanks to little money and few endorsements. He said that his army of volunteers, young and old, who worked around the country tirelessly for him is proof that "government of the people, by the people, and for the people has not perished from this Earth." This paraphrase of the last line of the Gettysburg Address hammers home his point that together, people can achieve the unexpected.

Obama went on to ask for unity and an end to the bitter divide between people on the right and on the left, between Democrats and Republicans, between people of different color and different ideas. He again spoke of Lincoln, saying: " Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House - a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, 'We are not enemies, but friends...though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.'" Of course that line was from Lincoln's First Inaugural Address.

John McCain also gave a moving speech last night as he conceded the election. He offered his support to Obama, thanked his millions of supporters, and said he still loves and believes in his country. It was the finest concession speech I've ever heard and it speaks to the honor and character of a man who so badly wanted to win. I think our country did a great disservice to him when it did not elect him in the 2000 presidential primary season, because I believe he would have led the nation with a steadier hand than what we have experienced since.

Only time will tell what Barack Obama will deal with during his presidency. I pray that Democrats and Republicans alike can find a way to reach across the aisle to help solve the many problems this nation is facing at this moment in history. And it wouldn't hurt to look back across some 150 years of that history and ask: "What Would Lincoln Do?"

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